Saturday, 15 November 2008


BKW’s latest post in praise of innovation lead me to consider how many of the improvements in bike design have been true advances and what effect some of those of “lesser” impact have had on the bikes we ride; so here’s a personal list of the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good

1. Clipless pedals:To this day I cannot understand why it took Sean Kelly so long to change to Look pedals. I first used them in 1988 and from the first clip in I could see that they were a major step forward in both safety (have you tried getting out of tightly done up toe straps lately) and ergonomics. Certainly my feet stopped hurting immediately I first put them on.
2. Ergo Levers: O.K. I know, Shimano introduced the first ones in the early 90’s but I could never get on with those, my hands are too small and to this day start to ache after about 2 hours riding on them, So it’s Campag all the way for me. Anyway, to the point: to get to this point in development, they had to have both hidden brake cables and indexed gears worked out but the whole thing made a single huge step forward with combining gear changing and braking on a single lever on the bars. No more leaning down to change gear etc. etc.
The Bad

1. Disc front wheels: Recipe for disaster anywhere except pursuiting in an indoor velodrome.
2. Roval Wheels: I don’t have a problem with “boutique” wheels in general, certainly for racing, I even use them myself, but those Roval wheels with the plastic star thingy in the middle must be the worst of both worlds. How do you true them up and what happens if you break a spoke? Mind you the same goes for Lightweights, but if you can afford those, you deserve all you get when things go wrong.
The Ugly

1. Carbon frames: Does anyone actually believe the B.S. the hacks write about “torsional stiffness” “vertical compliance” etc. etc. While a carbon fibre frame is very light and rides just as well as a modern steel frame, all these “aero” tweeks, bulges and formaed shapes just seem to add cost. I don’t even have a problem that 95% of all carbon frames are made in factories in the Far East and end up looking the same, only differentiated by paintwork, but how long do these things last? Carbon Fibre is one of the few materials that do not follow Young’s modulus of Elasticity and there have been a lot of high profile failures: Splintering Look road forks in the early 2000’s lead to a number of serious crashes in the pro peloton, regular frame failures of (a high profile U.K. supplier relatively new to market) and the infamous story of Specialized’s complete failure to provide robust machines to either Quick Step or Gerolsteiner in 2006.
2. 1980’s colour schemes: Lime green and pink? What was that all about?

This is an “off the cuff” personal list with no real thinking through before I put fingers to keyboard. Further contributions in all categories welcome…discuss.

1 comment:

eddy said...

Good -
Proper aero clothing and helmets, using real aerodynam,ic principles not just everything as a teardrop (case in point, the dimpled lazer TT lids)

Bad -
Carbon parts that undergo massive vertical vibration and huge forces from the rider, like bars and stems. Anything that shatters before it snaps, and snaps before it deforms scares me at speed.

Ugly -
most road barriers that are designed to have a wide footprint that stretches into the road. All it takes is one wobble and your bars are clear but your wheels are fucked along with your body.